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Le pont de bois
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Le pont de bois
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About the item

Le Pont de bois was painted in 1872, the year that Monet created his famous L’Impression, soleil levant, now in the Musée Marmottan, Paris, the work included in the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874 that gave the Impressionist movement its name. Here, we see similar brushwork and a deep interest in fleeting effects of colour and light. The reflections in the water that are such an important element of this composition fascinated Monet for the rest of his career, as evidenced by his crowning achievement, the Water Lilies in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. Indeed, his gift for painting water was underscored by the French poet and critic Stéphane Mallarmé who noted in 1876 that ‘Monet loves water, and it is his especial gift to portray its mobility and transparency, be it sea or river, grey or monotonous, or coloured by the sky. I have never seen a boat poised more lightly on the water than in his pictures or a veil more mobile and light than his moving atmosphere. It is in truth a marvel’ (S. Mallarmé quoted in Ruth Berson, The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, San Francisco, 1996, vol. I, p. 95).         \nThe carefully nuanced pinks, yellows, greys and blues in the water and the sky mark very short-lived, fleeting moments of an evening. They come and go in a matter of minutes. Yet they are recorded with a deftness, rapidity, and sense of authority that is unmistakably the hand of Monet. As a compositional foil, he used the beams and scaffolding surrounding the bridge that was under reconstruction in the months following the Franco-Prussian War. The bridge itself had been destroyed by the French Army as it retreated from the advancing Prussian soldiers who occupied the town of Argenteuil. The scaffolding, bridge and reflections of the architecture in the water anticipate forms and shapes that would later reappear in the art of the twentieth century. One is reminded of Pierre Soulages, Franz Kline, and George Bellows. There are also echoes of bridges depicted in Japanese prints (fig. 2) that we know Monet admired.\n\nLe Pont de bois is a classic plein air Impressionist painting that was executed sur le motif – in nature and without preliminary sketches. Moreover, it is a quintessential example of the following text from Edmond Duranty’s famous essay, The New Painting, that provides the best description of the emerging Impressionist movement in the 1870s in France: ‘The very first idea was to eliminate the partition separating the artist’s studio from everyday life, and to introduce the reality of the street… It was necessary to make the painter come out of his sky-lighted cell, his cloister,  where his sole communication was with the sky – and to bring him back among men, out into the real world… Our lives take place in rooms and in streets, and streets and rooms have their own special laws of light and visual language’ (E. Duranty, quoted in ibid., p. 72, translated from French). At the top of the bridge, Monet takes into the street and offers the visual excitement and raw forms of a contemporary construction site. The moment depicted is clearly the kind of real-life experience that is at odds with the painting of previous eras, which would have found such an image unworthy of the subject of a great painting.\n\nTo the modern eye, Le Pont de bois may not seem to depict a critically important moment in French history, but as evidence of the renewal and rebirth of the French economy following the war, the image is charged with meaning. As Paul Hayes Tucker observes with regard to another bridge picture Monet painted in Argenteuil in 1872, Argenteuil, le pont en réparation (fig. 2): ‘when he came to paint the bridge, it could have been both a painful reminder of defeat and a cogent symbol of France’s physical and spiritual collapse. However, his picture is not about war and defeat, for the bridge is not the ruin of a year earlier; it is under reconstruction and open to traffic. It can therefore be seen […] as a symbol of France after the war, rebuilding her monuments, reopening her lines of communication, and revitalizing her economy’ (P.H. Tucker, op. cit., p. 61).\n\nLe Pont de bois can be seen as a great Impressionist painting that lies at a critical juncture in the history of art as well as French history. It lies at the forefront of avant-garde art in the early 1870s, the years that would prove to be the crucible of Modern Art. Moreover, it is about time past, time present, and time future. The bridge is deeply rooted in local history, but it is under reconstruction in the present for the future of a nation that would rise with courage and spirit from the losses and destruction caused by the recent hostilities. Monet would return to the subject of the road bridge at Argenteuil several years later, after the reconstruction was completed, depicting the bridge on the river Seine in all its new splendour (fig. 3).\n\nThe first owner of Le Pont de bois was the painter Edouard Manet, the unofficial leader of the group of artists working in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century, who challenged the establishment and official ideas about taste and style. Slightly older than the artists whom we know as the Impressionists – Monet, Sisley, Degas, Morisot, Cassatt, Cézanne, and many others – Manet was cited in many contemporary articles and reviews as the leader of the group. For Monet to have the approbation of the distinguished older artist would have been perceived as an enormous compliment.\n\nThe leading dealer of Impressionist art, Galerie Durand-Ruel, purchased the painting from Manet’s widow in 1886. Subsequently it passed through several distinguished collections, including those of the Canonne family in Paris and the celebrated Californian collector Norton Simon, whose collection is now housed in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. Simon sold Le Pont de bois at auction in 1971, when it was bought by Dr Gustav Rau, who kept the work for the rest of his life.\n\nCharles S. Moffett\nVice Chairman, Impressionst, Modern and Contemporary Art, Sotheby's\n\nThis work has been requested for the exhibition Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River, to be held at the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from June 2014 until January 2015.\nSigned Claude Monet (lower left)
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medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Claude Monet

condition

The canvas is lined. Apart from a few small spots of retouching at the lower edge, a small fine line of retouching in the water and a tiny spot of retouching at the centre of the upper edge, visible under ultra-violet light, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although slightly less warm in the original, particularly in the green and brown tones. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

54 by 73cm.

exhibition

Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie, Claude Monet, 1931, no. 25 Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art & San Francisco, The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, The New Painting. Impressionism 1874-1886, 1986, illustrated in the catalogue Tokyo, Bridgestone Museum of Art; Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum & Hiroshima, Hiroshima Museum of Art, Monet: A Retrospective, 1994, no. 18, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Claude Monet, 1995, no. 29, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Vienna, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Claude Monet, 1996, illustrated in colour the catalogue Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection, Impressionists on the Seine. A Celebration of Renoir’s ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’, 1996-97, no. 14, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Tokyo, Yasuda Kasai Museum of Art; Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum; Matsue, Shimane Art Museum; Yokohama, Sogo Museum of Art; Matsuyama, The Museum of Art; Paris, Musée du Luxembourg; Rotterdam, Kunsthalle; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum; Munich, Haus der Kunst; Bergamo, Accademia Carrara; Bogota, Casa de la Moneda; Portland, Portland Art Museum; Dayton, The Dayton Art Institute; Nashville, Tennessee State Museum & Lisbon, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Meisterwerke von Fra Angelico bis Bonnard. Fünf Jahrhunderte Malerei. Die Sammlung des Dr. Rau, 1999-2006, no. 60, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

literature

Arsène Alexandre, La Collection Canonne, Une Histoire en action de l'Impressionnisme et de ses Suites, Paris, 1930, illustrated p. 12 Paul Jamot & Georges Wildenstein, Manet, Paris, 1932, listed Claude Monet: The Early Years – From British Collections in Aid of Police Dependants (exhibition catalogue), The Lefevre Gallery, London, 1969, mentioned p. 115 Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue raisonné, Paris & Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, no. 195, illustrated p. 203 Yvon Taillandier, Claude Monet. Meister der modernen Kunst, Munich, 1977,  illustrated p. 115 Alice Bellony-Rewald, The Lost World of the Impressionist, London, 1976, illustrated p. 117 Joel Isaacson, Claude Monet. Observation et Réflexion, Oxford, 1978, no. 35, illustrated p. 93 Luigina Rossi Bortolatto & Janine Bailly-Herzberg, Tout l’œuvre peint de Monet, 1870-1889, Paris, 1981, no. 60, illustrated p. 92 Paul Hayes Tucker, Monet at Argenteuil, New Haven & London, 1982, illustrated p. 60 Robert Gordon & Andrew Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, illustrated p. 54 Douglas Skeggs, River of Light, Monet's Impressions of the Seine, London, 1987, illustrated p. 76 Jean-Jacques Lévêque, Les années impressionnistes – 1870-1889, Paris, 1990, illustrated p. 220 Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue raisonné, Paris & Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, listed p. 25 Virginia Spate, The Colour of Time – Claude Monet, London, 1992, illustrated p. 88 Paul Hayes Tucker, Claude Monet. Life and Art, New Haven & London, 1995, no. 67, illustrated in colour p. 56 Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, no. 195, illustrated in colour p. 89 Impressionists in Winter – Effets de Neige (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1999, illustrated p. 66 Impression: Painting Quickly in France 1860-1890 (exhibition catalogue), The National Gallery, London, 2000, no. 79, illustrated in colour p. 128

provenance

Edouard Manet, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1872) Mme Edouard Manet, Paris (by descent from the above in 1883) Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired in 1886) Alphonse Portier, Paris (acquired in 1888) Edmond Ducap, Paris (sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 15th April 1901, lot 15) Maurice Barret-Ducap, Paris (sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 12th December 1929, lot 7) Henri Canonne, Paris (purchased at the above sale) Jacques Canonne, Paris (acquired from the above circa 1961) Mme Jacques Canonne, Paris (by descent from the above in 1963. Sold: Sotheby’s, London, 29th April 1964, lot 50) L. Harding (purchased at the above sale) Norton Simon, Los Angeles (acquired circa 1968. Sold: Christie’s, London, 30th November 1971, lot 24) Purchased at the above sale by the late owner

signedDate

Signed Claude Monet (lower left)

time_period

Painted in 1872.

consignmentDesignation

Property from the Gustav Rau Collection sold to benefit the German Committee for UNICEF

creator_nationality_dates

1840 - 1926


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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